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Artur Solomonov tells about his piece «How we buried Iosif Vissarionovich»

Anatoly Beliy is holding fast to Stalin in Tel-Aviv.
photo: Alexander Hanin

Where Vissarionovich is being buried

The play about Stalin with Russian top actors is performed in the cities of the world. In Moscow too.

A reading perfomance "How did we buried Iosif Vissarionovich" will take place in Riga on March, 24. Alexander Filippenko is starring in the leading role of the soviet leader (in fact, of a director named Voldemar, who is gradually transforming to Stalin). And also: Anna Mongait*, Shamil Hamatov, Anton Dolin*, Kirill Nabutov... That is, who has left Russia as of this day.

The premiere of the reading of this play took place in 2019 in Moscow. The leading roles were performed then by Maksim Sukhanov and Yulia Aug. Today it is shown abroad (Israel, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Georgia). But in Moscow in the Theatre.doc too it is still possible to watch this work. It was there that Filippenko saw it for the first time.

– Yes, Alexander Georgievich was in Theatre.doc. By the way, I believe that the actors now playing in Moscow in this play, as well as in other Doc's shows, – they are just heroes, – the author of the play Arthur Solomonov is sharing his thougts with «Sobesednik». – And speaking about the reason why he decided to participate the reading in Riga, I just can quote Filippenko himself: «I'm attracted to the role of this monster, who still has not been forgotten, is scary, and has influence. So let's try to bury him at last together! After all, the action of the play takes place in our days, which means we still have a chance at this funeral. At least on the stage...»

The play shows the interconnection between stalinism and putinism, how the past breaks into the present, seizes it, and seeks to take over the future. Longing for dictator and dictatorship, torment – looking for somebody to give your freedom to... All this is peculiar to not only modern Russia: many are disappointed in democracy now. But in Russian Federation, as always, this trend takes extremely grotesque, utterly absurd, terrifying forms. A great environment for the writer, for observation of the person, but, as they say, for «ordinary life» - this is a real test.

– Arthur, how do you define, who will participate in one or another reading performance?

– It always happen in different ways, depending on the possibilies of the hosting party, and on the city where the reading is proposed to be held. For example, in Prague, at Anton Litvin's festival Kulturus, which included the reading – the readers were Victor Shenderovich*, Olga Romanova, Alexander Morozov, Alexander Deljfinov. They are predominantly not theater professionals, but really bright personalities, and quite artistic. The same principle was followed at the reading in Montenegro (it was organized by a remarkable fund «Pristanište») – the readers were a journalist Victoria Ivleva, Alexander and Vladimir Shmelevs (and they beautifully performed roles of the Lady from Ministry, Lenin and Hruschev). The musical accompaniment was from Mikhail Borzykin – a legendary musician, the creator of band "TV set". Great Ukranian actors Victor Koshel and Katerina Sinchillo took part in this reading too – by the way, it is the rarest case in recent times, when Russian and Ukrainian actors play together at the same stage. Role of the invisible president was played by Marat Gelman*. And the Berlin reading was made all by professionals – Maksim Sukhanov, Nikita Kukushkin, Varvara Shmykova, Alexander Gorchilin. Do you imagine, how difficult it would be to gather such a band in Moscow?! In Tel-Aviv the main role was played by Anatoly Beliy, and it was a full-scale performance.

– I remember, the problems with this performance in Russia started in 2021, after the premiere in Chelyabinsk Chamber Theater...

– Yes, yes, they did. Back then participants of party "Kommunists of Russia" were coming near the theater with posters "Hands off from Stalin!" Afterwards there were mail from outraged citizens – to the Prosecutor’s Office, the FSB, the Presidential Administration. The performance bravely held on in the repertoire with constant full house, which is not surprising, as the stalinists' protests made a colossal advertisement for the play. But the Chelyabinsk performance, as I understand, have not survived military censorship. It is absent from the repertoire now despite success and demand.

/ Oleg Peranov.
* The Russian authorities consider them a foreign agent.